Wildfires have caused smoky conditions in cities like Edmonton and Winnipeg

Cities blanketed in smoke

Wildfires have blanketed a number of areas in Western Canada in smoke, including Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Out-of-control blazes are burning in Alberta near the communities of Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo issuing an alert for Fort McMurray residents to be ready to evacuate on short notice.

The wildfires across Western Canada are also creating poor air quality in a number of regions spanning Manitoba to British Columbia, with Environment Canada reporting "very high risk" — or level 10-plus — on the air quality health index for Edmonton and Winnipeg as well as a number of small cities across the Prairies.

The weather agency says other communities seeing or possibly facing very high risk in their air quality today include Fort St. John, B.C.; Medicine Hat, Drayton Valley and Cold Lake in Alberta; and Swift Current, Sask.

"Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you or someone in your care feel unwell," Environment Canada said in its air-quality warning, adding people should stay indoors if possible. "Contact your health care provider or local health authority if you develop severe symptoms or need advice."

Environment Canada says smoke billowing from fires in northeastern B.C. is expected to dissipate later in the day over much of Alberta, including Calgary and Edmonton.

But it says harmful smoke is expected to continue hovering over parts northwestern Alberta until Tuesday.

In Manitoba, another out-of-control wildfire near Flin Flon, some 760 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, has forced the evacuation of a number of homes and cottages in the area. The City of Flin Flon issued a notice saying Highway 10 linking to Cranberry Portage, Man., has been closed.

Elsewhere, an update from Alberta Wildfire said the blaze burning 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray has reached 55 square kilometres in size, and fire risks range from very high to extreme across much of the northern part of the province.

And in its bulletin on Saturday, the Manitoba government said the fire near Flin Flon was about 30 square kilometres in size, adding help is on the way from outside the province. It said 10 crews from Ontario are scheduled to arrive in Manitoba next week, while Saskatchewan is assisting with fire suppression through the use of air tankers.

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